IFLA Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC Core Programme (UBCIM)

International Seminar on Universal Bibliographic Control

Bibliographic Control in Latin America and the Caribbean on the eve of the third millenium

Mexico, 21 - 23 September 1998


This seminar was held by the University Center for Library Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The Center was aided in this endeavor by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the National Autonomous University of Mexico's General Office for Academic Exchange , and the Mexican Association of Librarians (AMBAC).

The topics discussed at the Seminar focussed on the following issue: that Universal Bibliographic Control has been a much discussed and debated topic given its evolution throughout the ages. On the eve of the third millenium, the application of information and communication technologies, the direction the organization of documents is taking, the requirements for the use of standards and formats for the organization of information, the need for strengthening cooperation and flow of information among the various organizations and sites in Latin America and the Caribbean, are themes which invite ample debate. These are issues addressed in the IFLA Core Programme on Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC (UBCIM)

With this in mind, the goals of the Seminar were:

  • To become familiar with the trends in Universal Bibliographic Control, in the area of cooperation and the use of information and communication technologies.

  • To examine the position of bibliographic control in Latin America and the Caribbean in order to identify problems and subsequent areas of research in bibliographic standards and formats and information and communication technology.

  • To formulate proposals for strengthening bibliographic control in Latin America and the Caribbean, resulting in a greater degree of cooperation among libraries in the region.

The event was attended by distinguished specialists from, The United States of America, England, Canada, and Germany, all representing IFLA; from Latin America, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. From Mexico there were participants from various UNAM institutions such as: The Center for studies on the University, The General Office for Libraries, the Office of Services for Academic Computing, the Bibliographic Research Institute, and the Center for Bibliographic Research. The Colegio de México also participated. There were 23 speakers, 8 moderators, and 3 rapporteurs.

The audience included professionals from Central America, South America and Mexico. Sixty-seven people formally enrolled for the event and an additional 35 attended without having registered giving a total of 102 participants.

The Seminar was organized in two forms: open sessions and one closed session. The open sessions were attended by specialists, researchers and professors of library science, involved in the area of bibliographic control, as well as professionals from other areas who were interested in the topic.

Open Sessions

The following are some of the conclusions of the open sessions:

The development and use of information and communication technologies has created a new cultural profile for the social groups of data users: these groups are almost always faced with large amounts of information, some of which may be relevant to the solution of specific social problems. Given the situation, the systematization of this information is called for. In addition, it was pointed out that the use of technologies has generated an inequality between the countries which have an important technological base and those countries whose infrastructure is limited.
From those papers by speakers from Latin America and the Caribbean, it can be seen that the use of technology has propitiated unbalanced social evolution, which can be seen in such aspects as culture, economics and education. This unbalance has naturally had repercussions on the levels of achievement in the organization and use of information by various social groups, using the information supplied by libraries and clearinghouses in the region.

Nevertheless, events show that the use of information and telecommunication technologies is an irreversible trend, given that they, among other things, facilitate the linking of remote information systems and the intercommunication of the people who take part in published media, such as authors, editors, booksellers, libraries, clearinghouses and users.

This social environment has led to the idea that the role of the librarian should lean toward the classification of available data into networks and the creation of proposals related to search engines; that the automatic indexing of information should be evaluated, as compared to the establishment of networked thesauruses; the advisability of the creation of a universal control language should be analyzed; work by intra- and inter-net should be performed, in order to maximize data resources, so that they will be scientifically, socially and economically profitable; librarians should have the professional skills to participate in multidisciplinary teams.

It became obvious during the Seminar, that we are facing a series of phenomena in which the traditional figure of the librarian as an intermediary between documentary information and the user will no longer work; events tell us, at the end of this century, that the librarian is obliged to analyze the new objects of study generated by technology in order to propose solutions to urgent needs, such as the use of search engines to navigate networks and the constant dissemination and organization of electronic data.

The immediate technological reality of the librarian in Latin America and the Caribbean is the Internet, which represents a constant object of study for librarians, given the high expectancies for electronic information available through this medium, a medium which has created new forms of organizing, storing, retrieving, transmitting and acquiring text, image, sound, color and voice information.

Moreover, bibliographic standards and formats for the organization and exchange of bibliographic information, such as UNIMARC and USMARC, etc., need to be analyzed and compared with the norms and formats for the creation of electronic documents.

Many of the speakers' comments indicate that one of the most urgent tasks for libraries in the region is the development of a profound knowledge of the new models created by information and communication technology. Moreover, it was obvious that the development of these skills is a necessary condition for participating in the very uses of these media in library settings in Latin American and the Caribbean. Doubtless many of the themes raised during the Seminar need more research in order to analyze their implementation and effects in the region; nevertheless, it must be recognized that there are high priority topics which must be addressed immediately. Several of these are urgent in many of the countries in the region.

Closed Session

In the closed session, speakers from Latin America and the Caribbean discussed the current situation and the future of bibliographic control in the region and, where appropriate, proposed guidelines for establishing co-operative programs for bibliographic control in the area. The themes for analysis and discussion are:
  1. Standardization;
  2. Storing and interchange of bibliographic registers;
  3. Computing hardware and software;
  4. Use of networks;
  5. Cooperation in bibliographic register exchange;
  6. Authority files;
  7. Training and updating of personnel in the area of bibliographic control.

Given the previous discussion the session proposed the following:


Requirements for Cooperation:

  1. Authority files:

    There are various projects which relate to the development of authority files which in general are only used in the sites where they were developed. For this reason the possibility of sharing the work done at the National Library of Peru and the National Library of Venezuela was discussed. To this end Carmen Ochoa and Jovagni Hernández will identify other authority files and study strategies for cooperation using principally tools of this nature developed in the region.

  2. Software for Database Conversion

    One of the stumbling blocks in using bibliographic registers in databases is the incompatibility of the register formats. Some places in the region have developed conversion software to solve this problem. The possibility of sharing this type of software was emphasized: Celia Zaher, Jovagni Hernández and Edgardo Ruiz, will investigate the ways of facilitating the sharing of conversion software.

  3. Discussion List on the Use of Bibliographic Fields and Cataloging Levels

    The number of catalog fields and levels shows one way of seeing the depth of work that is done in document organization in the region which affects cooperative practices in cataloging and classification and in the training of personnel in the area of bibliographic control.

To resolve this problem Edgardo Ruiz from the CUIB will set up a moderated discussion list which as its first task will ask participating libraries to share the fields they are using for cataloging. The final goal will be to design a common format for Latin America and the Caribbean which can guide the cataloging, register format for interchange, and databases.

The Latin American and Caribbean participants recognized that the updating of library personnel must be an ongoing activity in the region given that there is not a sufficient number of professionals who can optimally manage information and communication technologies in their daily tasks including bibliographic control.

It was stated that IFLA being seriously involved in the problems facing the transmission and use of information in our countries, can serve as a viable alternative which in the short term can help us meet the requirements in this area through formal extension courses. It is understood that the regional Librarians' Associations and others should be involved given their responsibility in the development of human resources. The persons trained in these programs can serve as trainers in their own countries.

There is an urgent need to organize various courses related principally to the application of standards in bibliographic control closely related to the use of telecommunication and information technology. For these reasons, the participants from the region expressed their approval of the following courses, in order of priority:

Continuing Education

Brush-up Courses

  1. Design of Bibliographic databases

    Using information technology, standards and formats such as UNIMARC and USMARC, Ofelia Aguilar, Felipe Martínez, Octavio Castillo and Elsa Barberena will look into the materials and teaching strategies to design courses on this topic.

  2. The Organization of electronic documents

    Metadata projects have received a lot of attention in library circles in the region as they offer an option for organizing digital documents. Nevertheless, their application to, and the consequences of, their use in bibliographic control must be analyzed. Therefore courses ought to be designed to this end.

On the other hand, the participants from the region showed interest in establishing closer ties with IFLA so it was mooted that the Central committee of this organization be asked to consider the possibility of establishing special dues for Latin American members. This petition is based on the fact that both institutions and professionals suffer severe economic difficulties barring participation in IFLA.

This petition will be directed to the corresponding Regional Committees by Elsa Barberena and Julio Castro.

The participants in the Planning Committee were : Concepción Barquet, Manuel Avila and Jesús F. García, the first two, CUIB academic staff and the third from the Institute for Social Research. Both UNAM institutions deserve a special thanks for their support.

At the same time, there was a space specially set aside for IFLA, AMBAC and CUIB publications. Also, several commercial suppliers, such as I.MASE and Información Científica, S.A. de C.V., had exhibits there.

The organizational and logistic help of Marie-France Plassard, Program Officer, IFLA Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC, was, given her broad experience with the themes dealt with at the Seminar, key to its success. A set of UBCIM publications was donated to the CUIB library, since they are in great demand and very important reference resources.

Taking advantage of the presence of participants from Latin America and the Caribbean, a workshop on indexing documents was offered after the Seminar. During the workshop the Latin American Thesaurus (based on INFOBILA, an IFLA-supported program) was also considered. The workshop was given by Catalina Naumis and Texia Iglesias. A parallel conference was organized with Elsa Barber and curriculum-design specialists from the UNAM, in order to discuss work being carried out in the MERCOSUR.

To conclude this report, it is important to acknowledge IFLA's economic support, which made it possible for 10 specialists in bibliographic control from Latin America and the Caribbean to be invited. They, along with the Federation's members and the Mexican exhibitors, made the Seminar a complete success.

Elsa Ramírez Leyva
Vera Director of the CUIB

Roberto Garduño
Co-organizer of the Seminar


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